Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 23, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 23, 2007

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Spanish Church Calls for Pardon of Civil War Sins
  • Smaller Churches Focus of LifeWay Initiative
  • Putin Promises Support to Russian Orthodox Church
  • FARMS Project in Senegal Helps Christians become Testimony to Community

Spanish Church Calls for Pardon of Civil War Sins

Reuters reports that the head of the Catholic Church in Spain has said it should recognize past sins. Media commentators have interpreted the speech as a plea for forgiveness for the Church having supported the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco. "The Church says sorry," was one typical newspaper headline on Tuesday, after the speech late on Monday by the outgoing head of the Spanish bishops' conference, Ricardo Blazquez. However, some church watchers cautioned that the media had jumped to conclusions, since an apology by the Church would be immediately put to political use in Spain. What Blazquez said was more nuanced than a straightforward apology for the Church's behavior in the Civil War, during which it gave its backing for Franco's military coup as a "Christian crusade."

Smaller Churches Focus of LifeWay Initiative reports that LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention has launched a new initiative aimed at helping pastors of small churches find strategies that will make their congregations flourish. Although there are more than 40,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), only one percent of them average more than 1,000 in attendance during Sunday school. LifeWay launched "Significant Church FOCUS" to meet the needs of those smaller congregations. LifeWay will work with state conventions and associations at the local level to help pastors bring new life to their congregations. Mitch Martin, a bi-vocational ministry specialist with LifeWay, says pastors of smaller churches need to know that they are not substandard or inferior to so-called "mega-churches."

Putin Promises Support to Russian Orthodox Church

On Monday of this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised further strong state support for the dominant Russian Orthodox Church, according to Reuters. Putin is urging believers to be active in crucial elections in December and March. The ex-KGB spy who now portrays himself as a devout Christian, met with top Orthodox clergy to mark 90 years since the post of Patriarch was revived in the year of the revolution. "Orthodoxy has always had a special role in shaping our statehood, our culture, our morals," Putin said. The church, closely integrated with the state since the 10th century, won back its autonomy from royal control under the Communists, but suffered intense persecution.

FARMS Project in Senegal Helps Christians become Testimony to Community

According to a Mission Network News report, "a thirty acre piece of farmland has been transformed outside Rufisque, Senegal. FARMS International helped provide funding to install an irrigation system in the thirty acre area. The money also covered initial planting costs, including seeds, fertilizers and labor. The dedicated Christians who work the land by hand grow okra, carrots, peppers and cabbage. They have even built a few outbuildings as well... More tracts of land in the area are being considered for development, and FARMS has a vision to build a school, offer medical outreach and an overall expansion of churches. Some of this vision is being realized, thanks to the tithes and offerings of an appreciative group of Christians in the area. The project outside Rufisque... has created jobs through the labor of the land, harvest, and bringing of the crop to market. The success of the project is a tangible testimony to others in the community."